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RI ESG Briefing, October 24: Global Green Growth Institute officially launched

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news

Environmental

The Global Green Growth Institute has officially been launched. The South Korea-based body will be chaired by former Danish Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen; Co-Vice Chairs are Lord Nicholas Stern of the London School of Economics and Professor Thomas C. Heller of Stanford University. Richard Samans has been named as Executive Director. “This Institute will serve as a think tank and laboratory for developing countries pursuing green growth,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. It follows South Korea being named as host the secretariat for the new Green Climate Fund. Link

The prognosis for coal as a financially viable energy source continues to decline, according to research from US environmental and social corporate responsibility group As You Sow. It has issued an update to its June 2011 White Paper: Financial Risks of Investments in Coal which show a snapshot of the financial risks that have dramatically altered the context within which electric utilities do business. Link

The total worldwide capacity of renewable energy-friendly microgrids will more than quintuple over the next six years to almost 4,000MW, according to a new report from Pike Research. It said the fastest-growing distributed power generation technologies are combined heat and power and solar photovoltaic systems, thanks to steep drops in prices for natural gas and solar PV panels.

Social

Unilever-owned ice cream firm Ben & Jerry’s has become a certified B Corporation – the first subsidiary of a larger group to do so. “The move was supported by Unilever … as consistent with Ben & Jerry’s core values and mission and fully aligned with Unilever’s own ambitious sustainability agenda,” the firm said. The now more than 600 B Corporations commit to using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.
Dutch pension investment giant PGGM Investments gives more details about its new responsible investing in private equity policy in an online video interview with FS Insight. See the discussion with Ruulke Bagijn, CIO Private Markets here

The Wellcome Trust, the £14bn (€17.3bn) charitable foundation, says it has joined charities, universities and pharmaceutical companies in signing a Declaration of Openness on animal research. It commits them to work together to develop principles of openness, practical steps and measurable objectives that will underpin a “more transparent approach” to animal research.h6. Governance

There’s been a “delay” in a plan put forward by European Union Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding to set a 40% quota for women on the boards of listed companies, with reports suggesting it has become embroiled in a row over the lack of female candidates for a top job at the European Central Bank job. “I will not give up,” Reding tweeted. “[European Commission President] Barroso will put this on the Commission agenda before the end of November.” And elsewhere, the Commission has said that all the legal conditions have been met for the 10 Member States that wish to apply an EU financial transaction tax (FTT).

The corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting of European banks and insurance companies “still needs improvement”, says French SRI firm Novethic. It analysed the reporting of 31 European banks and insurance companies in four areas of CSR: environmental, social and governance issues and their products and services. It found “sparse” information on sensitive governance issues such as executive compensation or tax havens. The six leading companies in the ranking are Generali (Italy), Crédit Agricole (France), BNP Paribas (France), Société Générale (France), Rabobank (Netherlands), Aviva (United Kingdom) and Deutsche Bank (Germany).

Consulting firm Towers Watson has found that for the second consecutive year, compensation for outside directors at the largest US companies has increased moderately, which it says shows that their pay “has returned to an environment of regular, modest pay increases not seen since before the economic crisis”. Towers also found that while overall pay levels were relatively stable, companies continue to refine the design of their director pay packages, “presumably in response to internal and external pressures”.

A new service has been launched in the US which aims to bridge what it says is a communication gap between investors and small and mid-cap public companies. BoardVote.com seeks to “allow for a two-way dialogue” between firms and shareholders. It was founded by entrepreneur Faruq Marican. Home page

Some unnamed large shareholders in UK newspaper owner Trinity Mirror plan to call for an investigation into alleged phone hacking at its tabloid titles, according to the Financial Times. It follows the news that four people, including former England soccer coach Sven-Göran Eriksson, had issued High Court claims against the company.